Friday, November 30, 2012

For Your Information

"Modern society is information rich and wisdom poor." -- Orrin Woodward

It is absolutely fascinating to consider the sheer volume of available information and the incredible speed in which it is now possible to consume. The Internet has made our desktops, laptops, tablets, cell phones, and even our iPods instant messengers and information retrieval systems. Anything you want to know, just type it in the search box. So, shouldn't we be just a little smarter? A little wiser? Are we?

If the above quote, by Orrin Woodward, is to be believed -- and I believe it is -- then we're really not any wiser at all. In fact, I would go as far to say we've lost a little ground here. Why? Because to some degree, it appears we have lost our desire to be critical thinkers.

Wikipedia says: "Critical thinking is a type of reasonable, reflective thinking that is aimed at deciding what we believe or what we are to do. It is a way of deciding whether a claim is always true, sometimes true, partly true, or false." By its definition, it requires "reasonable" and "reflective" thinking to process the vast onslaught of information and then arrive at a reasonable conclusion as to the validity and value of that information. In other words, is it true or false? Is it relevant or irrelevant? Will you learn something -- or just be entertained?

Our desire to be entertained may be at the root of the current critical thinking shortage. It seems we're more interested in somebody's 15 minutes of fame, than we are in somebody's 15 years of dedicated research, knowledge and practical wisdom. How can that be? We often know the names and lifestyles of all the current reality TV shows, but have no clue who represents us is local and national public office or what the most pressing and important issues really are.

Worse yet, we often cannot clearly articulate what we believe and why. Does it really make sense to simply listen to someone else's often uninformed opinion and adopt it as our own? Then when challenged give that deer-in-the-headlights stare? Knowing what we believe and why we believe it requires a healthy dose of critical thinking and the fortitude to do our own leg work on any particular subject. It never hurts to go offline. We need to read books, listen to CDs, and attend seminars and workshops in which knowledge and wisdom is shared.

I love the current commercial in which a young lady says she heard it on the Internet and if it is on the Internet it has to be true. When asked who told her that, her predictable answer is -- the Internet. Now I'm not picking on the Internet. It is a neutral channel for the most part, made up of good and bad. The Wikipedia definition I gave earlier comes from the Internet and it is helpful and truthful.

Perhaps the time has come to ask ourselves: "Where am I getting my information and how do I know it is true?" Perhaps more importantly we need to ask: "What good will it do and who can be helped by it?" After all, isn't it the responsibility of a true leader to be informed -- and to have well-thought out platforms from which to lead? Real leaders will never seek to minimize critical thinking, but rather will always demand it of themselves and embrace it in others. They know their real purpose is to serve through leading.

So next time someone says; "I heard it on the Internet", you'll know it's time to do a little research and a whole lot of thinking. You never know, you might just be able to say: "Well, for your information ..."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Think Thankful Second Thoughts

"When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself." ~ Tecumseh

What were your first thoughts this morning? What immediately came to mind when your feet hit the floor? By the way, "where's the coffee" doesn't count as a legitimate first thought. Our first thoughts hold a big clue to what we deem to be the most important or pressing issues of our lives. So, the question is, do we think more about what we have or what we don't have? If like so many people, your first thought is about money, then I'm fairly confident it is in relation to its scarcity rather than its abundance -- correct? In today's uncertain times, this is somewhat understandable and again, predictable.

Then, what about our second thought? After the mental calculation on the state of today's solvency, we may be tempted to dwell on what we don't have, what we might have missed, or if we're totally honest, what went to someone else -- who by the way really isn't as deserving as we are. Don't look so shocked -- the word is out so let's deal with it. The truth is, we all have wants, dreams, desires, and yes -- legitimate needs. These thoughts drive us and provide motivation for getting up and going to work. Not a bad thing.

But to seek only what we want, with no regard for the many blessings we have already received, is selfish and dare I say, childish behavior. More specifically, we may be committing malpractice against our own incredible mind. Now I won't go into the power of our subconscious thoughts and how they guide and direct us. That's the subject of another talk. But, I hope we can agree that our thoughts determine our actions. Selfish thoughts -- selfish actions. Thankful thoughts -- thankful actions.

Obviously, the celebration of Thanksgiving Day is not meant to be a once-a-year-hurry-up-and-say-something-nice-about-our-cozy-life-event. Rather it is a mile marker and a time of reflection to truly celebrate what we should be practicing on a year-round basis. The above quote, by Tecumseh, speaks of the most basic elements that we often take for granted but that would be sorely and immediately missed if they were withdrawn. No light. No strength. No food. Wouldn't take long for our joy cup to be emptied.

So tomorrow, and every day thereafter, let's let our second thought be one of true and heart-felt thanksgiving for what we have, who we have, and the time that we have them.

But, you may be saying to yourself: "Shouldn't this be my first thought each day?" The answer is yes. As a matter of fact, it should be the goal -- thankful thoughts first. However, since meaningful change comes over time, let's work on getting it up to the second position and go from there.

Have a Very Happy and Safe and Thoughtful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Are You Aware of Your Surroundings?

I asked this question in two different workshops today and basically received the same overall answer. The question was: How can we continue to keep a productive and success-driven mindset on a daily basis? The answer that was given? Control the way we think. In taking it a step further I asked: What are some of the ways in which we can control the way we think? The most popular answer? Surround ourselves with other people who know the value of "right thinking".

There is an old saying that came to mind. "You can't expect to fly with the eagles if you continue to hang out with the turkeys!" As funny as it sounds, there is a huge element of truth here. The people and places that we allow to surround us can have a profound effect on the way we think. Notice the operative words are "that we allow". We may not have been able to control when and where we were born, who our parents are, or even where we lived. But, we can control the way we react and how we can think about it all going forward. That includes the influences that we allow to take root in our lives.

To put it very simply, we need to find those people who have demonstrated the right thinking -- usually evident in the fruits of the success they've achieved -- and spend time talking with them and most importantly, learning from them.

Over the next few days, make a simple two-column list. In the first column write down the names of people who you believe have demonstrated positive and successful thinking. These are the people who energize you and make you feel better about yourself whenever they happen to be around. In the second column write down the names of the people who are perpetually negative or seem to bring a dark cloud with them wherever they go. Now honestly ask yourself; "where am I spending the majority of my time." Is it time to make some adjustments in your surroundings?

It has been said that everyone has the ability to light up a room -- some when they enter, and some when they leave. Which one are you? Which one do want to be?

If you intentionally work to change your surroundings, you may just change your future. I wish you great success -- and maybe we can hang out sometime.